How roselle can combat food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa


The use of roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) in combatting food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa

This poster was created by Mara Sanders, Hector Rodolfo Juliani, Albert Ayeniand and James Simon for the Horticulture Innovation Lab project "Improving nutrition with African indigenous vegetables in Kenya and Zambia." It was presented at the 2017 Borlaug Summer Institute, a two-week long learning conference for graduate students interested in addressing global food security. 

New Use Agriculture and Natural Plant Products Lab at Rutgers University

This lab brings together botany, ethnobotany, environmental science horticulture, agronomy, genetics, chemistry, food science, medicinal chemistry to develop new crop production, processing, product standardization and to identify new bioactive compounds that are of potential health or commercial interest.

Improving nutrition with African indigenous vegetables 
African indigenous vegetables have unrealized potential to improve the health status of at-risk populations. Working with influential organizations in Zambia, Kenya, and Tanzania, the project team is identifying and addressing the most critical limiting factors on consumption of indigenous vegetables. Through the following activities, the project's overall goal is to increase access, affordability, availability, and adoption of these vegetables. This project is funded by the Horticulture Innovation Lab and USAID.

Roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) as a new crop for New Jersey and Sub-Saharan Africa

Hibiscus sabdariffa (common names: roselle, gongura, bissap, Jamaican sorrel) is a shrub-like, drought tolerant, and indeterminate tropical plant. The fleshy outer casing of the seeds, called the calyx, can be used to make herbal tea. Calyx tastes similar to cranberry and is used for jams, jellies, wine and as a natural coloring agent. The leaves are similar to spinach and are consumed raw in salads or cooked. The origin of roselle is unknown (potentially South East Asia or Eastern Africa).

Today roselle is grown commercially for its calyces in China, India, Sudan, Uganda, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico and now the United States in Florida, California, Louisiana, and Kentucky. Currently, our team has been working on the breeding of roselle, the bioactivity of the anthocyanin pigments as well as in examining the nutrition of the calyzeand leaves. Our first decade of work has been focused on the calyx. Our current focus is to develop the nutritious and abundant leaves for consumption without compromising high quality calyx production for economic benefits.

Nutritional benefits
The calyces are shown to have anti-inflammatory activity, cancer prevention and liver protection activities due to the high content of anthocyanins (the colored pigments found in the fruits and flowers). The leaves are shown to have anti-oxidant, antihyperlipidemic, anti-atherosclerotic and anti-proliferation activity.

Implications for food security
Roselle has the potential to address many concerns such as: nutritional concerns, gender equality, interest of foreign markets and increase the economic power of farmers and rural communities and, importantly, is a crop that is culturally accepted across Sub-Sahara Africa, is easy to grow, and adapted to poor soil conditions where water is limited, often where the subsistence farmers are located.


Educational materials
Educational materials, courses, and training focused on nutritional programs for consumers, farmer education for growing new crops, and information for businesses interested in selling African indigenous vegetables and their value added products.

Improved tools for harvesting and post-harvest processing including a handheld tools for faster roselle calyx harvesting that was developed in Senegal and chilling technology for the storage of produce. By working with communities to develop new tools we are ensuring that the solutions we create are meaningful, beneficial, and relevant.

Improved crops
Distribution of improved crops as well as educational programs so that farmers can keep selecting and improving their own seed material.




Zambia Kenya Tanzania